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Meet Jenna Gumto

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jenna Gumto.

Hi Jenna, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I was born and raised in Richmond, VA. I came to San Diego in 2004 to start a new life with my now husband. He’s my best friend and my biggest supporter. In 2010, we welcomed our daughter to the world and she changed our lives. We are always together and love to travel the world as a family. As a parent, the biggest lesson I continue to teach my daughter is to be kind and accepting to others and to always be open to learning.

Where I grew up, I was not always exposed to many different cultures. As a teen, I found my circle and my friend group became more and more diverse. When I was 17, I started working in the retail industry. Before taking my first retail job, I was terribly shy and I found that retail helped me open up and gain more confidence in myself. I really started to enjoy talking to people and helping them. Over the years, I connected to so many different people and learned so many things.

I have always been a person that tries to see the good in everyone. Kindness and accepting others is something that comes naturally to me. Helping others is what I feel the most passionate about. After the local children’s store I worked at for six years closed permanently, I found myself trying to find my way into something of my own. I started Caravan Culture in November 2020. Yep, right in the middle of the pandemic. I figured there was no better time to begin a new journey and try doing something on my own. The business was started on a shoestring budget. I built my own website, came up with branding, started gathering my first inventory and started making moves to get the word out.

It started one day when I was flooded with thoughts of a business I would create and every detail seemed to present itself to me. I was going to start a retail business for kids and focus on kindness and products & companies that are tied to some sort of social good. So far, the companies or products I carry are anything from fair trade, sustainable play to organic, locally-made and showing diversity. I want to make sure there is a spectrum of kids that feel represented in the books, dolls and anything else I can add to the shop. The first batch of inventory was handmade children’s clothing and accessories from a local artisan. I sold her beautiful items at my previous job and wanted to help her sell her things while we were under restrictions for Covid-19.

My journey began with online sales and my first pop up at the San Diego Made Holiday Market at Grossmont Center in November 2020. I had mostly handmade items at that point, plus some teething toys, t-shirts and books that I only sold online. I did well at the two days market and was accepted as a vendor at the Summer Market in May 2021. I pivoted my business after that market, so I was able to sell more of my other inventory and add on more of the things I had for my vision of Caravan Culture. In May, I was lucky to secure a space within the new Sea Hive Station, a multi-vendor retail marketplace in Liberty Station. Sea Hive Station is located at 2750 Dewey Rd. Ste. 103 (formerly Ace Hardware). It is a highly curated shopping experience for both locals and tourists. You can find everything from vintage goods, clothing, furniture, handmade jewelry and other beautiful handmade items to plants and outdoor goods. They even have an expanding market inside and will be holding outdoor events every month.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The road has not been smooth, but I am pretty happy with what I have created. Since the beginning, I faced the challenges of learning new aspects of business that I had not managed myself. The biggest challenge being, doing it all with a limited budget and in a limited time frame. Through it all, I feel pretty good about how I have done so far.

Trying to start a business while also having a child out of school and doing virtual learning was a challenge, as well as having my husband working from home. Through all of the changes and adjusting schedules, to being mindful of each other while sharing the 766 sq ft condo we live in has only made us closer. We’ve learned when we can and can’t just casually chat and how to navigate around each other’s workspace in a respectful way.

I found that doing markets is harder for me since we own one small car and have little to no storage in our home. Transporting display items, merchandise, a pop up tent, rolling rack and other necessities on my own was quite the challenge. Online sales were doing ok, but I learned there is still a lot to know about how to successfully sell online and through social media.

I started the business with very little money and managed to recoup what I’d already spent. Taking on the space at Sea Hive Station required a new budget for setting up my space, buying more inventory to fill it, setting aside a few months rent and getting all of the display items and fixtures. My husband and I decided it was time to personally invest more money in the business. It just so happened that I was looking for an opportunity like this and just put it out into the universe…and it showed up! I’m happy to say, it’s been going well and I’m honored to be in such a cool new spot.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Caravan Culture is a shop that sells children’s clothing, books, toys and accessories. The age range is generally newborn-6 years. I want to help spread joy, kindness and compassion through the type of merchandise I offer in the shop. It’s important to me to relay positive, inclusive and loving messages through the books I choose. I am mindful of purchasing sustainable, fair trade, handmade, small-batch and like to buy from companies with a tie to social good. If there is a good cause behind a brand, that’s something I look for and plan to expand on.

The books I choose are super important to me. I like to focus on messages that teach kids about themselves, other people, cultures, mindfulness and about the world we live in. Acceptance is important, so I look for books that help kids learn about caring for others and that help them understand that our differences are what make us unique. The toddler tees I stock are mostly graphics that are also similar to the messages I look for in books. Some of the books and tees are geared more toward locals and tourists that look for items with a San Diego vibe. I like to keep a selection of those types of things at all times.

I’m proud of what I’ve managed to build on my own. I used to let my fears define me and keep me from doing things that I was excited about. With the help of supportive friends and family. I finally pushed through it and made this dream come alive. My ultimate goal is to put my heart and my values into the business and everything that surrounds it. My message to the world is and always has been to be loving, open to learn, accepting and not to take anyone or anything for granted.

I think the thing that sets me apart from others is that my shop reflects the same values that I live by. It’s not hard for me to find the right selection of merchandise because I know exactly what I am looking for. I am being true to myself and putting my heart into my business, just like I do in other aspects of my life. I truly just want to bring something joyful and positive to the world. The meaning behind the name Caravan Culture: A group of people on a journey to the same destination…meaning a kind and loving world.

What would you say have been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
The most important lesson I have learned along the way is to let go of the fear. Just do what’s in your heart and try your best. Ask for help along the way and don’t be afraid to fail or just pivot to help things work better. Sometimes our original vision changes and sometimes things may not work out, but don’t give up. There’s always room for change and everything in life takes work. Whatever your passion is, put your energy toward it and just go for it. You’ll never regret going for your dream.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Anjelina Armenta Photography

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